WASHINGTON (WNEW) – Ultrasound images have gotten so good that many pregnant women are getting 4D scans made for keepsakes, but a new study says those high-def scans can actually shed light on the harmful effects of smoking while pregnant.

The study published in journal Acta Paediatrica says the effects may be reflected in the facial movements of mothers’ unborn babies.

It’s a small pilot study, as scientists observed only 20 women. Sixteen non-smokers and four smokers were scanned four times between the 24-36 weeks period of their pregnancies.

The fetuses of smoking mothers had “a significantly higher rate of mouth-movements” and touch movements than the non-smoking group and the differences between the non-smoking group and smoking group widened as pregnancies progressed.

Researchers say the difference might be that the fetal central nervous system, which controls movements in general, doesn’t develop at the same rate in the case of the smoking mothers.

“Technology means we can now see what was previously hidden, revealing how smoking affects the development of the fetus in ways we did not realize. This is yet further evidence of the negative effects of smoking in pregnancy,” Co-author Professor Brian Francis of Lancaster University said.

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